It was customary to keep this festival on the eve of the first of February, in honour of the Irish lady who came over to the Isle of Man to receive the veil from St. Maughold. The custom was to gather a bundle of green rushes, and, standing with them in the hand on the threshold of the door, to invite St. Bridget to come and lodge with them that night saying:
“Bridget, Bridget, come to my house, come to my house tonight, open the door to Bridget, and let Bridget come in.”
“Vreeshey, Vreeshey, tar gys my hie, tar gys y thie aym noght. Vreeshey tar gys y thie aym noght.
O foshil jee yn dorrys da Breeshey, as lhig da Breeshey cheet stiagh.”
After these words were repeated, the rushes were strewn on the floor by way of a carpet or bed for her.
A parish church, a nunnery, and no less than seven of the ancient keeills (chapels) or cells are named after her in the Isle of Man, where she seems to have been a great favourite.
…And on St Bridget’s Eve the old farmers’ wives used to sweep out the barn, and put a bed, and a chair, and a table in, and light a large mould candle that would burn all night. And set bread and cheese on the table, with a quart jug of good Manx ale, all in the hope that Breeshey would pay them a visit. And they used to say at the open door before going to bed:
“Whosoever house you come to, come to ours tonight.”
“Quoi erbee yn thie hig oo, huggy tar gys yn thie aynyn.”
A young man, a relation of my mother, was once coming home at a late hour and passed one of those lighted barns. He went in to have a look, and ate as much as he could of the bread and cheese, and finished the ale; and then went and rolled himself well in the bed, and shut the barn door again.
The old farmer’s wife, as soon as she got up in the morning, went to the barn to see if Breeshey (Bridget) had been, and when she saw the bread and cheese and the ale removed, and some one had lain in the bed, her joy knew no bounds. She was all day going about telling the neighbours that Breeshey had paid her a visit, and she would be all right and blessed with peace and plenty for the year!
BRIGID THE CELTIC GODDESS
Brigid is the traditional patroness of healing, poetry and smithcraft, which are all practical and inspired wisdom. As a solar deity her attributes are light, inspiration and all skills associated with fire.
She rules over many types of fire — the fire of the forge (as Goddess of smithcraft and metal working); the fire of the hearth (as Goddess of healing); and the fire of inspiration and creativity (as Goddess of poetry). Brigid is seen as a triple Goddess, and she is associated with three different spheres — high (leaping flames, tall forts, wisdom); middle (hearth and home); and low (wells and sacred springs).
Brigid is also the Goddess of physicians, divination and prophecy. One of her most ancient names is Breo-saighead meaning fiery arrow, and within that name is the attribute of punishment and divine justice.
Although Brigid is designated as an all-encompassing deity during Imbolc, she is honored in her capacity as the Great Mother.
She possesses an unusual status as a Sun Goddess who hangs her cloak upon the rays of the Sun and whose dwelling-place radiates light as if on fire. Brigid took over the Cult of the Ewes formerly held by the Goddess Lassar, who also is a Sun Goddess and who made the transition, in the Isles, from Goddess to saint. In this way Brigid’s connection to Imbolc is completed, as the worship of Lassar diminished, only to be revived later in Christian sainthood.
Brigid long transcended territorial considerations, providing some unity between the warring tribes in Western Europe and the Isles. Her three sons gave their names to the soldiers of Gaul. The cult of Brigid exists not only in Ireland and the Isle of Man, but throughout Europe as well; she has an ancient and international ancestry. As Mother Goddess, Brigid united the Celts who were spread throughout this area. She was the one feature upon which they all agreed, no matter how disparate they were in location or traditions.
In addition to her totemic animals of the cow and the ewe, she is also associated with the cockerel, the herald of the new day and the snake, symbol of regeneration. In this way she is related to fertility Goddesses, many of whom were also shown holding snakes and share with Minerva the shield, spear and crown of serpents. Serpents are also a common theme in Celtic jewellery (another product of smithing) with many torcs displaying this sinuous symbol of power and divinity.